Restrictions placed on Old Town houses |

Restrictions placed on Old Town houses

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

The Park City Council on Thursday approved a package of changes to the development rules in Old Town, completing what was a grueling review of controversial restrictions in the city’s most highly charged neighborhood.

The elected officials voted 4-1 in favor of the changes to City Hall’s Land Management Code, the document that regulates development inside Park City. City Councilman Joe Kernan cast the dissenting vote. The approval came just before a moratorium on development applications on steep slopes is scheduled to be lifted. It was put in place in 2008 to allow officials time to consider the changes to the Old Town rules.

The discussions stretched from the fall, and they pitted City Hall and some Old Town supporters against many property owners and house designers. The supporters of the changes argued that some newer houses in Old Town are far larger than the historic ones and additional regulations were needed. People in the camp against the changes were especially worried that the value of their property would fall if City Hall tightened the rules.

The crucial changes are:

Requiring the third story of houses on steep slopes be set back 10 feet from the bottom two stories. That would make the houses appear less massive from the street level, the supporters say.

Limiting houses on steep slopes to three stories.

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Better defining of measurements on the steep slopes.

Under the changes, houses on steep slopes can be designed to a maximum of 2,342 gross square feet, including space such as garages. The figure is down from what had been allowed. In an interview, Planning Director Tom Eddington Jr. said the drop in square footage is attributed to losing the potential of an additional floor and losing some space on a third story since that floor must be set back.

The City Council and the Planning Commission held a series of hearings about the changes that drew split crowds. The lower panel had wanted tighter restrictions than were approved on Thursday.

The opponents were especially aggressive in their testimony, telling officials that the value of their property will suffer terribly if tighter regulations were adopted. They questioned why others who built houses years ago would reap the financial rewards while they might not because of the new rules.

Before the vote, the City Council listened to an hour of testimony on Thursday from 18 people, mostly opponents. The testimony resembled the comments that had been made during earlier hearings.

The supporters said regular Parkites want Old Town’s historic look protected and the size of houses has gone awry. Brian Van Hecke, an Empire Avenue resident, said some houses are "completely out of control."

"The time is now to fix the problem," Van Hecke said.

Opponents, though, claimed property owners stand to lose too much potential for development. They also said City Hall did not spend enough time considering the changes.

"There’s a whole bunch of iffy things," said Don Bloxom, a house designer who opposed the changes.